Washington Jewish Music Festival Spotlight: Simone Baron

Simone Baron - AIR

StrathmoreSimone Baron - AIR Strathmore

As diverse as D.C.’s music scene is, cross collaboration between different cultures and communities seems to be more the exception rather than the norm. But there are a few key people who have made strides to break down barriers in the community, one being Simone Baron.

“D.C. is a very international city,” she told DCMD in an interview. “There’s a lot of different communities and flavors, and that is the most wonderful thing about it.”

Baron’s upbringing and education was mostly rooted in classical music. She’s a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory of Music and Tel Aviv University’s Buchmann School of Music where she studied classical piano with esteemed teachers like prolific pianist Lydia Frumkin. Eventually Baron became fascinated with the accordion, and began teaching herself how to play and study it more seriously. She’s currently pursuing a masters at University of Toronto with Professor Joe Macerollo.

“On the piano, you hit a note and the sound dies after the initial attack, while at the accordion it sustains and you can change the life of the sound,” she said. “That means you can do things that string players and wind players can do in terms of vibrato and getting louder and softer, and it’s a lot closer to singing in that way for the human voice. In terms of being interested in other instruments that I could write and play with, it was a natural fit.”

As she started getting into different kinds of music, Baron also began collaborating with a more diverse roster of acts–notably artists within D.C.’s Brazilian community. She intends to merge her eclectic relationships into a series of shows for the upcoming Washington Jewish Music Festival, an 11-day event highlighting Jewish musicians from all across the musical spectrum. Baron will represent the festival as an artist-in-residence after finishing up another artist-in-residence program at the Strathmore.

“The Brazilian musical community has been very welcoming to me, and it’s been amazing to have the opportunity to learn by playing alongside some of my favorite musicians this incredible body of music in which the accordion often plays a central, traditional role,” she said. “I just really wanted to say thank you and share this collaboration with the Jewish community as well.”

On November 8, Baron will perform with the Contra Ponte Project at Songbyrd, which fuses together Brazilian and jazz influences. The band will perform alongside Seth Kibel and Christylez Bacon as they debut their new hip hop-klezmer based project.

“Contraponte in Portuguese means counterpoint, but also, ponte means bridge: the project is a bridge between Brazilian, American and Jewish musical traditions,” Baron said.

After her show at Songbyrd, Baron will debut a new piece of work with Washington Jewish Music Festival master artist and acclaimed trumpeter David Buchbinder on November 11 at the Edlavitch DCJCC. Her final performance will take place on November 12 in the same venue, as she will perform a selection of chamber works by female composers. The show will also feature a performance by a Toronto-based dancer.

“It’s huge to be given artistic freedom and do these really different things,” said Baron. “Especially being a Jewish female musician, getting to explore what that means and exploring different sides of my musical identities that I’ve taken on.”

The Washington Jewish Music Festival will take place on November 2-12. Check their official website for more details.